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Creating Signage for The Chauncey— A New High Rise Mixed Use Development in Downtown Iowa City

This new high rise in downtown Iowa City changes the landscape by 15 stories. Here’s the story of signage for this monumental new mixed use development that includes FilmScene movie theater, SpareMe bowling alley, retail, corporate and office space, condominiums, and a hotel.

*Images below are original concepts from Moen Group and Rohrbach Associates

What is The Chauncey?

The Chauncey is a $57 million high-rise in downtown Iowa City (great exterior sign images, courtesy of the Gazette, at this link) located at College and Gilbert streets. This mixed-use development is home to FilmScene cinema, a coffee shop, a bowling alley, a hotel, as well as condominiums and commercial retail space.

The signage work is wrapping up on this four-year project that will bring work, life and play into one central area. This project was not the first mixed-use the Moen Group and our team has worked together on and with the trend moving in the direction of these types of developments, they don’t expect it to be their last.

Mixed-use developments are different because you’re mixing markets (residential/hotel/retail/commercial), which means, our sign expert, Bryce Carlson says, “you have to fulfill a lot of different needs for an array of clients.”

Embrace Sign Challenges, Then Get To Solving Them

With all the different needs within one property, there were bound to be a few challenges.

Carlson had technically been working on The Chauncey for four years, with work ramping up in the last couple. So within that time, “a lot issues cropped up!” This was a true collaboration with the architect, Rohrbach Associates, and the developer, Moen Group, with the independence to plan, design, manufacture, and install the signage.

First, there was the challenge of finding the right overall sign design. Next was the makeup of the building – after all, it’s not every day you have to put signs 15 stories up — that “was a huge install,” Carlson said. Luckily, there were great partners, installers, and equipment in place to get the job done. With early collaboration and a precise plan, the letters were installed in one business day.

Illuminated.ExteriorChauncey.600x400.jpg

Additionally, in terms of zoning requirements, high-rises have different rules and regulatory code signage. The team at ASI is well-versed in signage code and take a proactive approach to it. They first determine what the signage regulations are before embarking on design. With this project, they also had to contend with recent updates to exterior sign code made by the city of Iowa City. So that dictated a lot of their decisions. For example, channel letters couldn’t have retainers unless they were at a high level.

It’s important to work with signage experts who know the code and how to work with it. Steve Rohrbach, President of Rohrbach Associates, commented that "getting the project through approvals with the City and Community" was the biggest challenge of this project.

"With a high-profile project like this, you want to deliver a unique experience to the city. Therefore, all the signs had distinct qualities about them and in turn, their own set of challenges" Carlson says. For example, ASI was tasked with mounting a sign on terra cotta, as well as integrating signs with a glass wall, and putting signage on a curved wood “pod.”

“The signs on the high-rise turned out great but it was suspenseful because there was no guarantee they’d turn out exactly as envisioned,” Carlson commented. He was also nervous at one point about the FilmScene flag mount because it was tough to get permitted.

With a high-profile project like this, you want to deliver a unique experience to the city. Therefore, all the signs had distinct qualities about them and in turn, their own set of challenges

Bryce Carlson, Eastern Iowa Sign Expert

The Process of Getting to the Signage Solution

Even facing some challenges, there was confidence in the ability to deliver. In part because the building owner is someone they’ve partnered with previously and knew they could work well together. Everyone involved was focused on the end-user and that made for “one of the most smoothly run projects I’ve seen in my 20 years,” Carlson said.

Rohrbach commented "Bryce and the team's responsiveness is a great asset. When options are required we were provided options as soon as possible."

Consistency

One of the major factors at play in a mixed-use design such as this is keeping a consistent appearance throughout. The design they went within the upscale, urban environment was a mix of steel and concrete for a modern, industrial look. And for the interior signage was subtle, and to keep it cohesive throughout, featured the same font and color scheme.

Turnkey

Our signage team was tasked with designing signage for the bowling alley, the high-rise, and the theaters. However, this project wasn’t a typical situation. As a Design-Build philosophy was taken to provide one source signage for an efficient turn-key solution.

From beginning to end from fabrication to installation of each component with the process being: Design, Approve, Price, Manufacture, Install.

Functional Wayfinding System

With this project, they also needed the functionality of a wayfinding system to and through the hotel and retail areas. They also needed to create signage that would help people locate specific theatres. And they needed to keep the public away from the residential areas.

Since tenants could easily change in a mixed-use property, they needed to be able to take signs down as quickly and easily as possible. In the interior, this meant using paper inserts where necessary.

Planning Ahead

As with any signage project, one of the most important aspects is pre-planning. With so many stakeholders and components to the overall project, The Chauncey project was well contrived and choreographed for all partners involved. And that wouldn’t have happened without planning, trust, and the exceptional working relationships among all parties involved.

To set the stage, our teams had a seat at the planning table which kept everyone aligned and focused on the same outcome.

From coordination meetings to negotiations, our signage team was able to ask intelligent questions like how would they run the electric and just how were they going to execute specific requests. The ability to talk through these considerations with contractors, architects, designers, and the building owner creates efficiencies and sets everyone up for success.

Bryce and the team's responsiveness was a great asset to this project. When changes were required we were provided options as soon as possible.

Steven A Rohrbach, President of Rohrbach Associates

Dedicated Donors Get Recognized

One aspect of the project, which wasn’t technically a part of The Chauncey but a direct contract with FilmScene, the non-profit cinema, was to create their Donor Wall signage.

Andrew Sherburne commented, "in recognition of the many contributions to our ambitious capital campaign, we needed a donor recognition piece that was as striking as our new cinema—which also left room for adding names in the future. ASI's solution fit perfectly, balancing modularity with simple elegance to create a work of art that anyone would be proud to have their name on."

The plaques were built using acrylic and matte acrylic to add dimension, with different colors, sizes and thickness representing the varying donation levels. A key component in the development of the Donor Wall signage was making sure that it was updateable.

...we needed a donor recognition piece that was as striking as our new cinema—which also left room for adding names in the future. ASI's solution fit perfectly, balancing modularity with simple elegance to create a work of art that anyone would be proud to have their name on.

Andrew Sherburne, Founder FIlmScene

A Proud Moment

At the ribbon-cutting, the building owner said he’d never seen a reaction quite like the one for The Chauncey. When the illuminated signs were turned on, people “Whoa’d” in awe.

When the team looks back at the results of this multi-year project, Carlson says, “It’s hard to pick one favorite aspect.”

The way the project came together was a testament to the teams involved. Because they were working with a group of experts who are knowledgeable in their respective fields, and reliable, they were able to make it happen.

“This is honestly the most unique and coolest project I’ve done. But picking a favorite sign? That’s like trying to pick a favorite kid!” said Carlson.

Want To Know More?

Need some guidance? Find your local sign expert here.

Have questions about this project specifically? Email Bryce Carlson at bryce.carlson@asisignage.com

Wondering where the Chauncey got its name? Read more here.

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